Building Bonanza or Bust? Navigating the Labyrinth of Non-Compliant and Non-Conforming Building Products in Australia


Building projects are exhilarating ventures, brimming with the promise of personal havens and architectural masterpieces. But lurking beneath the excitement lies a minefield of potential pitfalls, none more treacherous than the tangled web of non-conforming and non-compliant building products. Fear not, intrepid builders, for knowledge is the mortar that will cement your construction dreams!

Many building certifiers face problems with non-conforming and non-compliant building products. It's happening everyday, all around us and across Australia. It is extremely important to understanding the difference is the key to reducing your risk, managing costs and ensuring compliance with the National Construction Code (NCC).

What are non-conforming building products?

Imagine a world where labels lie and whispers of deceit echo among the shelves. That's the realm of non-conforming building products, where materials falsely promise strength, fire resistance, or sustainability but crumble under scrutiny. These wolves in sheep's clothing can inflict havoc, compromising the structural integrity of your project, igniting safety concerns, and ultimately sending inspectors into a frenzy. In simple terms, non-conforming products are those that do not comply with the NCC, other laws and Australian Standards. NSW Fair Trading refers to them as simply ‘bad products’ that claim to be something they’re not (such as non-combustible) and marketed to deceive people into using them.

Non-conforming products either have not been tested in an accredited lab, or did not comply with the parameters of the test. It is important to note that engineers cannot prove non-conformance. Manufacturers must undertake the relevant testing and provide a legitimate certificate to the client.

What are non-compliant building products?

Non-compliant building products are those that are used in situations that do not comply with the NCC. In other words, they are quality products with all the relevant certificates, but have not been used correctly in a development. NSW Fair Trading refers to them as products ‘used badly’. These are materials that may be perfectly valid but are used in the wrong situations. Think of a flammable curtain adorning a fire escape – perfectly legal, disastrously placed. While not inherently deceitful, non-compliant products can still land you in hot water with Building Certifiers and leave your construction dreams in tatters.

For example, a product may be deemed suitable for a Type C construction under three storeys, but has been used in a 10-storey building. In this situation, the product in non-compliant with the NCC. Engineers can determine whether products are fit-for-purpose or used correctly in your development.

Why Does it Matter?

The consequences of these rogue materials are anything but trivial. Non-compliance can result in:

  • Safety hazards: Compromising structural integrity, fire resistance, or weatherproofing can have disastrous consequences for you and your loved ones.
  • Legal ramifications: Heavy fines and potential project shutdowns await those who flout the National Construction Code (NCC).
  • Time and cost overruns: Fixing non-compliant installations is a time-consuming and expensive nightmare.

Who is responsible?

Using non-conforming or non-compliant products can lead to serious risks and liabilities for your development and business. Architects, engineers and other specialists need to make sure that any products, materials or systems used in a development are fit-for-purpose and meet the performance requirements.

Your MBC building certification consultant is also responsible for inspecting the development for any signs of bad products or products used badly. We may require evidence of suitability for a particular product, material or system if there are questions about their compliance with codes, standards and laws.

Since the Grenfell tragedy in London and Lacrosse apartment fire in Melbourne, the government has introduced legislation that aims to reduce the use of materials that do not conform or comply to the NCC, particularly in relation to imported products.

The introduction of non-conforming and non-compliant building products into the Australian supply chain is one of the biggest issues facing the industry, with many experts suggesting that more needs to be done by state governments to tighten the chain of responsibility.

Tips for reducing your risk

Using products, materials or systems that don’t comply with the NCC will not only compromise their performance and void their warranty, but also pose a significant safety risk to the general public. However, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk:

Seek professional advice from your building certification consultant early in the process. We can review the proposed products, materials and systems during the design phase and ensure everything is compliant with all relevant codes, laws and standards.

Maintain quality assurance processes to ensure product substitution does not occur. If a substitution is necessary, make sure due diligence is undertaken and the change will not affect the quality or compliance of your development.

Understand the background of each product and its intended use in the development, by working with trusted manufacturers and suppliers who undertake stringent testing in Australia and can provide any evidence of suitability that is required.

Stay informed about changes to codes, laws and standards that will affect your development. We advise clients on any current or potential reforms to the building industry that may affect their project, to ensure they remain safe and compliant.

While prevention is better than cure, it can be difficult to demonstrate that products are fit-for-purpose and comply with the NCC. If you have any concerns or questions about your development, please get in touch with our building certification consultants.

How we can help

Navigating the ever-changing landscape of building regulations and product certifications can be overwhelming. That's where ArchiEng steps in. Our team of structural engineers and Certified Materials Professional CMatP can assist you with the following:

  • Unmask non-conforming products: Through meticulous assessment and product verification, we'll expose imposters and ensure your materials are fit for purpose.
  • Guide you through the NCC maze: Our deep understanding of the NCC's intricate pathways will lead you to compliant construction with ease.
  • Craft compliant solutions: We'll work with you and your architect to tailor solutions that meet both your vision and the NCC's stringent requirements.
  • Shield you from compliance woes: Leave the paperwork and regulatory hurdles to us, and focus on the joy of building your dream.

Building with Confidence:

With Archieng at your side, you can rest assured that your project stands on a foundation of compliance. We'll guide you through the jungle of building regulations, ensuring your materials are not just trendy, but legally sound and structurally secure.  With the right knowledge and expert support, your building adventure won't be a cautionary tale, but a triumphant saga of bricks and mortar made dreams!

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